Activated Charcoal Health Benefits

| Modified on Apr 20, 2023
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Activated Charcoal Tonic Health Benefits

Activated charcoal is an effective natural remedy for a wide spectrum of health issues. Activated charcoal is used as a home treatment for digestive problems, infections, insect bites, and pain. It is even useful as a natural deodorant! And that is just the beginning of the usefulness of this simple remedy.

One of the most beautiful features of this jet black substance is that it can be made anywhere on the planet! Activated charcoal is an accessible remedy to the poorest person that can make a fire yet at the same time may save the life of the richest person on earth.

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a medical grade of carbon. Carbon is a very basic element which is contained in all living things. When you burn wood slowly with a minimum of oxygen, everything burns off, except for the carbon. (Fires with high availability of oxygen will result in more residual ash and less carbon.) Charcoal that is then crushed into small particles and purified to remove the majority of any remaining ash is what we call activated charcoal. This is what is sold for medical use.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

Charcoal has the amazing ability to adsorb. Note that it is really not absorb. A sponge absorbs. Charcoal adsorbs. Adsorb is similar to the word adjoin; both have the Latin prefix “ad.” So the mechanism that charcoal uses to remove toxins, bacteria etc. is that it attracts these things electrostatically, safely removing them from the body.

What Does Charcoal Adsorb?

Charcoal adsorbs thousands of substances. Here is a very partial list:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Arsenic
  • Aspirin
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Chlorine
  • Gasoline
  • Hemlock
  • Iodine
  • Ipecac
  • Kerosene
  • Mercury
  • Methylene Blue
  • Morphine
  • Narcotics
  • Nicotine
  • Opium
  • Penicillin
  • Pesticides
  • Selenium
  • Silver

What Is Not Adsorbed by Charcoal?

  • Cyanide
  • Iron
  • Lithium
  • Mineral Acids
  • Caustic Alkalis
  • Alcohol
  • Boric Acid

Internal Use of Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is used internally to treat many conditions including the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • IBS
  • Stomach Flu
  • Infections
  • Detox
  • Herx effect
  • Poisoning
  • Body Odor

How Much Activated Charcoal Should I Give?

For poisonings, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following for a single dose:

  • Adults and teenagers: 25-100 grams
  • Children 1 – 12 years old: 25-50 grams
  • Children under 1 year: 10-25 grams

The charcoal is mixed in water. 1 Tablespoon of activated charcoal is approximately 10 grams. (14 capsules is approximately 10 grams.)

These amounts may seem quite large, but they are the recommendations for poisonings. Always be in contact with your doctor, emergency room or poison control center in the event of a poisoning.

For most health concerns, much less charcoal is generally useful.

For many health issues even as little as ¼ -1 teaspoon (one teaspoon being about 5 capsules) of activated charcoal will be helpful. Once you have used charcoal some you will begin to get a feel for how much is helpful to you.

Activated Charcoal and Lemon Juice Health Tonic

This activated charcoal and lemon juice tonic prevents hangovers, food poisoning, alkalizes pH, and powerfully detoxes. We highly recommend this beverage before hitting the town at night! But it is also a great pick me up first thing in the morning and will energize you for the day.


1 Tbls. Activated Charcoal 
Fresh Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Liter Purified Water

Add ingredients to a glass mason jar and stir well. Consume tonic slowly either two hours after or before eating, and taking any supplements or medications.

External Use of Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is also a wonderful gentle remedy for external use. The charcoal is made into a poultice and held onto the area in need with an ace bandage or cohesive tape to draw out poison and toxins, reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Some conditions that have benefited from topical poultices include:

  • Insect bites
  • Bee stings
  • Gas
  • Food poisoning
  • Gall bladder pain
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Kidney pain
  • Wounds
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Tooth abscess
  • Canker sores

For detailed directions about how to make a charcoal poultice, please see this page.

Activated Charcoal Tincture

Activated charcoal can be made into tincture for certain applications.

  • Simply mix 1 teaspoon of activated charcoal into a quarter cup of pure water.
  • Shake this up and then strain through a coffee filter.
  • Store this solution in a glass jar - a small jar with a dropper lid is ideal.

The resulting liquid will have retained particles from the charcoal. This tincture can be used for the following:

  • Pinkeye
  • Pterygium
  • Ear infections

The tincture can also be used as a gargle for sore throats, mouth infections and bad breath.

Activated Charcoal for Pets and Livestock

Animals can benefit from activated charcoal as well. It is useful for wounds, stings and poisonings in dogs and cats. Farm animals with diarrhea and other health problems can use charcoal internally just like people. You will find detailed information about using charcoal for pets on this page.

Activated Charcoal Cautions

Activated charcoal should not be used within 2 hours of medication or supplements because it can adsorb medications, rendering them ineffective. The exception may be if it is being used to treat poisoning. At that point, weighing the risk of not treating the poisoning must be weighed against the risk of deactivating medication.

Activated charcoal could cause constipation or bowel blockage if large amounts are used and not enough water is taken with it. For this reason, always take charcoal with plenty of water.

The more finely ground activated charcoal powder is quite lightweight and can “poof” into the air when you are using it. Aspiration could be a risk, so handle it carefully to avoid excessive “poofing.”

Where Can I Buy Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal tablets are sold worldwide in local pharmacies and grocery stores. Check the first aid section. Charcoal Powder can be bought online at Amazon here.

Have you used activated charcoal as a natural remedy? We would love to hear from you about it! Continue reading for extensive feedback from Earth Clinic readers who have sent us feedback on this incredible remedy for 15 years!



Activated Charcoal and Meds

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Anonymouscat (Sarasota, Florida) on 07/04/2012
5 out of 5 stars

Took Benadryl for hives, but begain having serious adverse side effects: pounding, irregular or racing heartbeat shaking tremors difficult time catching your breathe, my tongue felt thick. Seriously feel like I was going to die! Well all of that happened to me, dr called and said she thought it was a reaction from the Benadryl. So I took some activated charcoal tablets I always keep on hand, and the adverse side effects fell away It was truly AMAZING.

Activated Charcoal and Meds
Posted by Craig (Las Vegas, Nevada) on 12/23/2011

Would taking the activated charcoal affect someone who is on a fentynal patch? Would it reduce the effectiveness of the patch?

Also does activated help with parasites?


Replied by Charcoal Dependent
(California, US)

Activated charcoal may have an effect on a fentanyl patch although, not as severe as if you were taking an opioid pill. I still think it would pull some of the fentanyl out of your system. Check with your doctor, and or try a dose or two and see how you feel. No withdrawals intended :) I am a RN who is prescribed a large amount of activated charcoal due to a form of toxicosis. My MD advised me to wait 90 minutes-120minutes between taking charcoal and other medications or supplements. Make sure if you take activated charcoal, that you at least take a multi vitamin. As the article mentioned, charcoal will pretty much absorb the good with the bad.

Activated Charcoal and Meds
Posted by Rita (Skandia, Michigan /usa) on 02/05/2010

Will the activated charcoal tabs take away the effectiveness of my medicine?

Replied by Heartrhythms
(Santa Fe, Nm)

Hi Rita, activated charcoal would probably reduce the absorption of your medicine if taken around the same time (to be safe, I'd leave at least 4-5 hours between the charcoal and meds).

Replied by Anon

I would also eat something in between the charcoal and meds, such as fresh fruit - cantaloup would be a decent choice I think, as it is bulky and has a lot of water. It should sweep away the charcoal before your meds get near it, or provide a barrier between the charcoal and meds if you take the meds first. I would not take the charcoal and meds together without doing this.

Raw potatoes are also bulky and have a lot of water. Both are low in sugar and fats. The amount you need would depend on how much charcoal you took if you took the charcoal first. If you take the meds first you would want to wait 30 minutes to an hour perhaps before eating the melon. That way the meds are not mixed into the melon in the stomach, but have exited into the small intestine and will not contact the charcoal at all. Taking psyllium fiber after taking the charcoal may help sweep it from the digestive tract in case it lingers and adsorbs the meds. Wait perhaps an hour after taking the charcoal to take the psyllium. Away from the meds, of course. Mixing psyllium and charcoal in water and taking them together seems to reduce the effectiveness of the charcoal in my experience as it is trapped in the psyllium.

Charcoal is wonderful stuff. Sulfur is also a good detoxifier, though it works differently. Probiotics like kefir may be helpful in case the charcoal removes the beneficial gut microbes. I have been getting hives recently after using store bought kombucha, though I enjoyed it for a few years before the hives started. You may want to stear away from it temporarily if you are ill.

Activated Charcoal for Dogs

Posted by Italiandobergirl (Nj) on 11/17/2015

I am a now retired Vet Tech yet will be opening a Pet Rehab in NJ I pray. I also run a 501(c)(3) Animal Rescue. We save all B& S, yet many Dobermans that are very gassy and prone to bloat.

I am a huge fan from my work at a Vet of the use of Activated Charcoal (AC). I always had it on hand. Issue until I open my Business/Clinic I am looking for any OTC compatible AC. The AC at stores has dyes and other ingredients not good for our furkids.

Has anyone found a brand OTC as I am not a fan of ordering, and now will NOT order any online meds that is NOT a VIP Approved Pharmacy.

Yes sidenote other non VIP Online Pharmacies have had many reports of tampered meds or not even the correct PLEASE make sure you utilize a VIP Pharmacy. I.E. Dr. Foster & Smith is VIP. JW any specific brands to add to my first aid kit for my furkids and our Rescues? Grazie.

Replied by Mama To Many

Dear Italiandobergirl,

Well, my charcoal source is not a VIP approved pharmacy, as far as I know. But I have used them for years and have always been very happy with the service and products. We use charcoal to treat our people, our farm animals and our pets.

~Mama to Many~

Replied by Steve

I've had good success with starwest activated charcoal. They should have 1lb bulk bags. Not sure about the VIP labs that sell this.

Replied by Joan

The brand KAL charcoal activated seems pure and only has charcoal and gelatin due to the capsule. U can find it on

Bee Sting

2 User Reviews
5 star (2) 

Posted by Grace (Spring City, Tn.) on 03/27/2012
5 out of 5 stars

I have used charcoal for bee stings also. It works good to put this mixture into a pouch: cut from a baby diaper or chuck with medical tape around it, Pull out the stay dry lining because charcoal only keeps drawing if it is wet. Ground Flax seed works best but when my husband became allergic to flax seed I started using corn starch.

This also works on Brown Recluse Spider Bites, Snake Bites, Mosquito Bites, Infected Cuts of any kind and Ear Infections (Tape to the out side of the ear, pulls the infection out). I used this on my children it really works. Put it on at night and the next morning there was yellowish pus on the poultice.

I believe if people knew the benefits of Charcoal and how to use it many lives would be saved. No worries about gangrene.

Bee Sting
Posted by Gean (Salina, Kansas) on 05/05/2008
5 out of 5 stars

I am very allergic to bee stings. I had gotten stung a few times during my childhood and teens, each time with more severe swelling. The last time I had gotten stung (stepped on a bee going barefoot), my leg swelled up like an elephant leg all the way to the thigh (the time before that it was just above the knee). So I knew it would be worse the next time, so I carried an Epi-pen around for a while until it expired. Then I carried nothing with me, but I knew if I got stung again esp. above the waist it would probably cut off my airway circulation. Well, lo and behold, about 20 years later I got stung again, right on my throat, so I yelled for my husband to call 911, thinking I was done for. Then a few seconds later I said, "Never mind! Hang up and help me mix up this charcoal!" So we took some powdered activated charcoal, mixed it with water, and applied it to the sting site. When the paramedics showed up a few minutes later (they had traced the call), we told them we were fine, since there was no swelling at all. I changed the charcoal poultice quite often during that first day, I don't remember exactly how often. Maybe every hour for a few hours. We also ground up some flax seed and mixed it with the charcoal and water. This makes it gelatinous and less runny. I kept the poultice on for about 3 days. Two days later I felt it itch and begin to swell, and then I realized the poultice had slipped off the sting site. So I knew I was still very allergic, and the charcoal had probably saved my life.

Replied by Anon

I wonder if holding a cloth soaked in apple cider vinegar would penetrate the skin and disolve the toxins from the sting. Or an aspirin or vitamin c tablet.

Also, chia seeds would work in place of the flax.

Replied by Pam
(Southern California)
108 posts

I have used AC for cases of infected teeth with abscess, though ... and found it to be very effective!!! However, I keep a spray bottle of white grain-based vinegar handy, & when something stings me, I head straight for that & spray the sting-site a few times ... rubbing it into the skin around & over that area.... I used to swell way up several inches around a sting, with skin turning red & so painful I wished I would die! Since I started immediately spraying with 5% vinegar to treat stings, though, I no longer experience much if any swelling or pain! And it only requires a 1x application, for myself....

Bites, Poison Ivy, Wounds, Infections

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Maria R. (Knoxville, TN) on 04/01/2023
5 out of 5 stars

ACTIVATED Charcoal for bites, poison ivy and wound infection

My husband worked in the forest building trails and came back with what looked like poison ivy. He treated both legs with an ointment. One leg was remedied, the other leg stayed red for two weeks and started becoming hot to the touch. We knew that it meant he had systemic infection so I made him a poultice of Activated Charcoal, rice flour (for thickening, you can use arrow root or corn starch), and castor oil. I spread it on his wound and put a gauze over poultice and a plastic wrap over the gauze. I then wrapped the entire would around the thigh in an Ace Bandage. He did this for four days, making sure he removed the bandage in the shower as the AC is VERY messy. We replaced with new gauze each day for four days. I used an activated charcoal for whitening teeth found at Bed, Bath and Beyond!

On top of this I had him do four days of taking activated charcoal internally by capsule, found on Amazon.

Day 1 he took only 2 capsules in morning and two in evening with lots of water.

Day 2 he did the same.

Day 3 he took 1 capsule every hour all day long.

Day 4 he took 1 capsule every hour all day long.

Day 5 all was clear - accept for a VERY dry thigh, (which we rubbed Coconut oil into until dryness was gone)

All the heat and redness was gone!


3 User Reviews
5 star (3) 

Posted by Mark (Las Vegas, Ca) on 03/30/2012
5 out of 5 stars

Activated Charcoal is good for food poisoning, Gas and bloating and Accidental poisoning. Always keep some on the house. I take it fairly often. I have never had a bad experience using it but many times it has saved me from problems such as gas, bloating and bad food.

Those that warn people to stay away always fail to recognize that maybe it will work for others and their problems might be an abberation and not the typical experience. I have never had charcoal cause constipation.

Posted by Killer Bees (Brisbane, Australia) on 05/15/2008
5 out of 5 stars

I had the same problem as Sharon from Santa Fe. I'm 42 now and for the last couple of years, I've had problems with everything I eat making me bloated and uncomfortable. I've tried everything I can think of, including elimination diets, with no luck. But activated charcoal really worked for me. I take 2 tabs in the morning and then 2 at night, each time about an hour after eating to give my body time to digest the meal's nutrients. I don't usually take it at lunch time because I only have soup or tea and that doesn't seem to upset me too much. I didn't have the diahorrea. My stools were solid and did change to a very dark brown/black and I felt very cleaned out. They passed more easily as well. I'll keep taking the tabs twice a day until I feel like I don't need them. My thanks to Sharon from Santa Fe for recommending this product. Girl, you rock!

Posted by Sharon (Santa Fe, NM) on 03/04/2008
5 out of 5 stars

After menopause, I seemed to be bloated in my midsection most of the time. My lower stomach was puffy most of the time. I'm a thin person, and thought this was weight gain due to menopause & quitting smoking. Ond day I took 2 activated charcoal capsules for gas, and I ended up spending a lot of time in the bathroom that day. By that evening, I realized that my stomach was flat again! I figured that the charcoal had detoxified my system!! I will continue to take the charcoal once or twice weekly now. I am extremely happy with the results!!

Body Odor

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Therese (Maui) on 05/18/2018
5 out of 5 stars

I use activated charcoal externally as my natural deodorant. But this takes practice to make sure you don't go out in public with a tank top on a blackened arm pits!

About 20 minutes before I shower I apply a mixture of activated charcoal and water that I keep in a jar (say 1 teaspoon of charcoal to 2 teaspoons of water) to my armpits and let them dry with the charcoal on them. 20 mins later when I shower, I use a MICROFIBER cloth to remove the activated charcoal from my armpits. It doesn't always wash off easily so you must use a microfiber cloth, which is soft and won't scratch your armpits. And voila! No need for deodorant and lasts all day. Try it please in the morning and let me know what you think and don't get mad at me if you forget to wash it off and get weird looks. Me? Never! Heh heh.

Charcoal Feedback

5 User Reviews
5 star (3) 
1 star (1) 

Posted by Marsha (Australia, Victoria) on 09/03/2015

I only learned about activated charcoal here and knowing what it can do convinced me to store some in the house in addition to apple cider, baking soda, turmeric, and honey. I'm so glad that I found this site as the remedies I got here easy to prepare and very effective! This is now my to go site for various ailments. Thank you all!!

Charcoal Feedback
Posted by Jeanne (Atl, Georgia) on 06/25/2008
1 out of 5 stars


Please be careful if you try activated charcoal! I was getting stomach pain 20 minutes after every meal. I finally figured out that my stomach pain started after I took activated charcoal (heaping tablespoon for 2 days in a row - not a lot!). I located the pain in my stomach, found a little lump in the colon, and then used my fist to move the lump to the left. A day later my husband took over, found the lump,(which had moved slightly) and did acupressure for about 2 minutes on the spot-- ohhh yes, it hurt. But within minutes I had to run to the bathroom and the rest is history. No more stomach pain. So please be careful with the charcoal, especially if you have a sensitive stomach! I think that people's stomach aches can be often be an impacted colon. The same thing has happened to me before after eating bread and another time, after drinking psyllium without enough water!

If you press on your stomach and have a painful spot that moves slowly from one day to the next, you may have clogged your colon/intestines. Tons of water helps, but acupressure massage is best to move the obstruction to your bowels and out. One last note is that I was having normal bowel movements even while my colon was impacted, so don't rely on that (constipation or elimination) to judge, but more on the location of pain and whether or not a little lump exists.

Replied by Connie
(Manitowoc, Wisconsin)

Maybe drinking more water with the charcoal would help?

Replied by Mercedes
(Wilkes Barre, Pa/usa)
0 out of 5 stars

I took natures way activated charcoal for gas pains it caused worse pains then I started I also feel a lump in my stomach it has been 6 days and I still cannot have a bm. I also went to the hospital for this pain. They couldnt do anything for me because I took exlax which made me go but not the hard lump above belly button. The exlax made me dehydrated so they sent me home. I wouldn't recomend this to my worst enemy. So to all who read this before taking it please don't take it.

Replied by Diamond
(Salisbury, Usa)

Jeanne;I think the inscription might read take only 1/2 a teaspoon of Activated Charcoal, then work your way up gradually to one tsp. Most people will have negative results to anything, even food, but our bodies will let us know when enough is enough or that it's not good for one person but is for another.

True? good luck

Replied by Jennifer
(Duluth, Ga)

Food grade activated charcoal is made from hardwood, coconut, or bamboo if I'm not mistaken. Amazing product! I bought the hardwood activated charcoal and it has worked very well for me and my family. I used it when my son got stung by a wasp and it took the pain away very quickly. It also helped me avoid a nasty stomach virus that was going around my house. And if I eat something that I know will give me gas. I just take some activated charcoal and I don't get gas. Love this stuff!!

Replied by Anon

Taking several gel caps of charcoal is a bad idea if the release of charcoal adsorbs stomach acid and prevents the remaining gel caps from dissolving. This could theoretically create a mass of undigested capsules that could be difficult to pass.

Charcoal Feedback
Posted by Jennie (Copenhagen, Denmark) on 06/15/2008
5 out of 5 stars

I had been losing weight really quickly after starting an exercise program. I wanted to make sure that any old toxins that had been stored in my fat didn't start circulating in my body, so I took 1 tablet of activated charcoal, 3 times a day (remembering to wait 2 hours before/after eating), for a week. I didn't exactly feel a difference, but I SAW one. I looked five years younger (am only 30, so that's a lot for me)! I also highly recommend adding 1 teaspoon of activated charcoal powder to 1 tablespoon of facial mask. It is a mini-facelift!

Charcoal Feedback
Posted by Norman (Edmonton, Canada) on 06/21/2007
5 out of 5 stars

Our family has used activated charcoal tablets as a quick remedy for digestive problems for years. In Asia one can buy them for pennies, and with the spicy foods there and possible diaheria at times they are a life saver. Recently I moved back to Canada and feel like I am in a 3rd world country. Anything connected with health and well being is either unavailable or overpriced. How sad that we can not even buy a harmless product that can save ones life when an accidental poisoing occurs. You will only realize how much Canada has peddled backwards in the past 10 years when you visit other countries.

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